Yesterday was the bi-monthly spouse’s language and culture class at my husband’s office. It is, for me, admittedly, a somewhat stressful activity. I like meeting the other spouses from all the various countries, and I like learning the language, and learning about Japanese culture, but because I am still very much lacking in Japanese language skill, it is nerve-wracking for me. After being in the beginner class for the first year, in January they moved me up to the intermediate level. The other women in my class all are from South Korea… very nice, and I count them as my friends, but they have a bit of an advantage with the Japanese language because Korean, as well as Japanese are both based on the same Chinese Kanji characters. I struggle…
Yesterday was especially difficult. For whatever reason, I just felt like I couldn’t even use what little Japanese I have learned. It was agonizing as the teacher asked me question after question, and I could hardly put two words together coherently.
Anyway… My cousin is coming to Tokyo on business, and we are planning to meet her for dinner next week. So, this evening my husband and I walked to a restaurant we know in our neighborhood, to make a dinner reservation. We love this restaurant, and go occasionally, but hardly anyone there speaks any English. It is always difficult to communicate beyond pointing at pictures on the menu.
When we walked in, I could just see it in the hostess’s eyes… that look of panic as she thought, “Oh no… How am I going to speak to these people?” But… Having looked up the word for “reservation” (yoyaku, according to Google Translate) we were (somewhat) prepared! Upon entering, we said, “Yoyaku ga hoshii desu” — maybe not the most polite or eloquent way to ask, but she understood! And we actually communicated. I went on to say “Getsu-yobi, shichi-ji” when she asked when (“itsu desu ka?”), and “san-nin” when she asked how many people (“nan nin?”) Honestly… the look of relief in her eyes, was reflected in ours! This whole process took only a couple of minutes, but it was amazing. We actually had communication, and she wrote down the reservation, showed it to us, and then followed us out the door, bowing deeply with an ” Arigato Onigaishimasu” (Thank you…)
Granted… it was a minor victory, but a very welcome and hard won victory. There is hope, after all, that we will someday be able to communicate adequately here in Japan.